Welcome to what is going to be the first in a semi-planned series of posts outlining some beginner-level strategies to help you get started in the Lord of the Rings: Living Card Game. In a game that already has so much additional content out there, it can feel overwhelming to know how to begin and, even, how to get started with learning the game. Deck construction is a key component to the game, and even the Core Set itself will encourage you to explore this path with the small selection of cards in the pool. Before you even consider purchasing more content for the game, you’ll likely want to get familiar with how the game plays AND how to construct a deck in order to combat the scenarios you’ll encounter.
That leads us to the question: what do you do first after opening the game? Where should you get started as a newbie to the Lord of the Rings: LCG? The answer will apply whether you are playing solo or playing with another player…
Play through the Passage Through Mirkwood quest with each preconstructed deck
The very best way to gain an understanding of the various cards in this core set would be to try each of them out. This is best accomplished by running through the first scenario – one that can provide enough challenge to test the deck but not enough to create confusion and frustration. Each mono-sphere deck is capable of making it through this quest, although some will be more likely to succeed than others. This will let you see the strengths and weaknesses of each trio of heroes for the sphere and learn what some of the cards in each sphere can accomplish. For example:
Tactics is really good at killing things and surviving attacks, but isn’t so great at questing
If you are going to lose with one of the four decks, this is the one that will probably lose. And it isn’t through any real fault of this sphere – they will be more than capable of handling any enemies that spawn and they do have ways of getting some quest tokens onto the board. But they are heavy on attachments and on events that affect attack, defense, or the ability to attack. There are only a handful of allies in the deck, and none of them really add to the questing power of your group. Being able to see the deck in action, and witness both its strengths and its shortcomings, will pay off when it comes time to construct a deck. You’ll be able to know that this sphere will need to be paired with a sphere that is excellent at questing.
After you’ve played through the quest with the faction, take some time to look through the rest of the cards in the deck and see what cards didn’t come out over the course of the quest. Doing this now, while the playthrough is fresh in your mind, will help you to see and evaluate how that could have possibly functioned if you had drawn that card. Especially in a losing situation, being able to look for a card where you say “If I had this in my hand, I could have overcome X and then I might have won” is valuable because that will help you to identify those cards that you’ll want to consider including in a deck.
The Gandalf cards
The one sphere-less card in the core set is Gandalf, a very powerful ally card. You’ll find later, when constructing decks, that this is the one auto-include card in every deck. If you are playing solo and using one deck, you’ll want to include three copies in your deck. If you are building two decks, you’ll want two in each deck. It is that good. There can be some value in adding the Gandalf card to these four decks as you test them, as it will allow you to not only see how his card can be a big benefit but also help you to preplan for the cost needed to play him in a deck.
However, his card can also detract from the experience of seeing how a particular sphere functions and its ability to operate independently. There is a good argument to include him at this point, and a good argument to be had for leaving him out. Which is why I’d probably suggest putting only one copy in the mono-sphere deck. This will give you a chance to see him in action if you draw him, but will also not clog the deck down with multiple copies of the card. But if you feel inclined to do so, you can leave him out entirely or put in 2-3 copies.
The Next Steps
The next thing you are going to want to do is to construct a deck of your own, putting two spheres together in order to create a larger, more versatile deck. This is the area that I will be looking at in the next few posts, all of which I am going to aim to create this month. Here are the other three planned posts, as well as a few other bonus posts that I plan to make in December regarding this game:
Strategy Post #2: Evaluating the Heroes – In this post I will look at all twelve heroes in the Core Set and discuss a little bit about them, their abilities, and give some thoughts on solid pairings of heroes in a dual-sphere deck.
Strategy Post #3: Constructing a Deck without Knowing the Next Quest – In this post I will go over some strategies on how I would blindly construct a deck that is suited to tackle a quest without knowing what dangers are lurking in the specific quest. In other words, what general things should a deck have in order to have a fighting chance against most quests?
Strategy Post #4: Constructing a Deck to Defeat a Specific Quest – I’ll take a look at specifically building a deck to tackle known threats in the second Core Set quest: Journey Down the Anduin. We’ll cover what those cards are that you need to plan on dealing with and some possible counters that exist in the Core Set.
Bonus Post #5: Where to Go After the Core Set? – I’ll look at the various suggestions that are frequently presented to the newer player and evaluate what those have to offer. Since I’ve not purchased anything other than the Core Set myself, this will present the thoughts of a newer player trying to weigh the pros/cons of each possible path of purchase.
Bonus Posts #6 & 7: The Fellowship Event – December is coming, which means the 2017 Fellowship is arriving soon at local game stores. I’ll take a look at a possible deck using just the Core Set, as well as possible low-cost purchases to expand a deck construction beyond just the Core for the event. Then, after my event on December 17th I will come back with an impressions/reaction post based on participating in my first Fellowship Event.